Martha Wainwright returns to Milwaukee for a Shank Hall show
Recently, I had the chance to chat on the phone with Martha Wainwright while she was taking a walk through a park the middle of Quebec, where she grew up and currently lives with her family.
Wainwright was born into a musical family. Her father, Loudon Wainwright III, is a folk singer and actor, and her mother, Kate McGarrigle, is a singer-songwriter. Her older brother, Rufus, is also in the music industry and has recorded seven albums on major labels.
In 2016, Wainwright released her seventh album, "Goodnight City." Recently, her anthemic song "Bloody Mother F**king Asshole" popped up in "Orange is the New Black" and "Big Little Lies."
"The leaves are falling," Wainwright said during our conversation. "It's beautiful."
And we expect nothing less from Tuesday night's show.
OnMilwaukee: What was it like growing up in such a musical family?
Martha Wainwright: There was a lot of music around. People played piano and we sang and practiced, but the real takeaway for me was seeing and understanding the nuts and bolts of daily life as a musician. The business side – sometimes the darker side – of being a full-time artist.
What kind of music did you make as a kid?
I played the guitar when I was younger because I could take it into my room and get away from my brother who was always on the piano making so much noise. I liked being on stage as a kid – I think I was probably kind of annoying – but I always felt comfortable singing on stage.
Do you and Rufus ever collaborate?
I don't think we could write a song together, but we sing a lot together. He lets me sing a couple of songs at his big shows, but he doesn't want me to steal the limelight. But I usually do.
What is different about your new album?
This album was different in that I didn't write all the songs (Glen Hansard, Beth Orton and others contributed). This brings a lot of personality to the album. I also think it's a little more upbeat and positive than my other records. It is less biographical; less about past loves and boys. It was certainly fun to make.
As the mother of two young boys, have you considered making a kids' record?
I don't think I'd make a very good children's record, but I tried to bridge the gap and made a record with my sister of morbid lullabies (called "Songs in the Dark"). You know, to prepare them for the realities of life.
I guess songs of yours like "Bloody Mother F**king Asshole" wouldn't work well on a kids' album. But it did work well at the end of "Orange Is The New Black." Did that revitalize your 2005 album? Who is that song about?
I hope it would give a little boost to music sales. What's really interesting about that song is that I got in trouble when I originally recorded it because it's about my father and it made him angry. I always had some resentment toward my dad because he wasn't around very much, but he's also helped my career tremendously and I have him to thank for that.
Sometimes when you are really open and frank in a song that's what you get known for even though it's not the full story, just part of it. People like this song because it's emotional and they like to hear it when they are going through a hard time and it's a good song.
Do you like touring these days?
I like to be on the road, but not for too long because I don't bring my kids anymore because one is school aged. It's hard to be away from them but I take advantage of it: sleep in, drink nice wine and sometimes smoke a little pot.
You've been here before. What are your thoughts of Milwaukee?
I love Milwaukee. There's a guy named Gary Witt who runs some venues and he's always been a great supporter. He should be mayor of that town. I don't have a huge draw in Milwaukee, but I always want to come back. It's a groovy city.
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